News / Science & Technology

Scientists Unveil Genetic Blueprint for Wheat

FILE - Farmer sifts wheat crop at a farm on the outskirts of western Indian city of Ahmedabad, March 6, 2013.
FILE - Farmer sifts wheat crop at a farm on the outskirts of western Indian city of Ahmedabad, March 6, 2013.
Reuters

As far as agricultural genome research goes, this may be the best thing since sliced bread - wheat bread, that is.

An international team of scientists on Thursday unveiled a genetic blueprint of wheat in an accomplishment that may help guide the breeding of varieties of the vitally important food crop that are more productive and more hardy.

Researchers who are part of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, formed in 2005 by a group of wheat growers, plant scientists and breeders, unveiled what they called a chromosome-based draft genome sequence of bread wheat, also known as common wheat.

The work makes it easier to identify genes controlling agriculturally important traits like yield, disease and pest resistance and drought tolerance, according to FrDedDeric Choulet, a plant genomicist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), one of the lead researchers.

“Bread wheat is a major crop. It is the most widely grown crop around the world and is a staple food for one third of the human population. However, its genome is so complex that it has always been perceived as impossible to sequence,” Choulet said.

“Wheat improvement is crucial to ensure food security and the development of sustainable agriculture in a context of climate change and growing population,” Choulet added.

The large, repetitive nature of the wheat genome has complicated efforts to decipher it.

The research, published in the journal Science, encompasses nearly all the genes of bread wheat, whose scientific name is Triticum aestivum, and roughly 60 percent of the whole genome. The researchers estimate that wheat has about 124,000 genes and that its genome is 40 times larger than rice and seven times larger than corn, both of whose genomes have been deciphered.

The wheat genome also is more than five times larger than the human genome, the researchers noted.

The new work also included a comprehensive look at the largest of wheat's 21 chromosomes.

The researchers underscored the need to develop new and better wheat varieties.

“The world is facing enormous challenges with a human population projected to rise to over nine billion by 2050. Food production will need to increase by over 50 percent without expanding land use in the face of a changing climate and with dwindling availability of fertilizers, water and effective pest treatment,” the consortium said in a statement.

The researchers noted that wheat is a versatile plant that can be grown in a range of environments and that its grain can be stored easily and turned into flour to make a lot of different kinds of food.

The consortium has set a goal of finishing the full genome within three years.

“We have a clear path forward for completing high quality sequences of all bread wheat chromosomes,” said Kellye Eversole, the consortium's executive director.

The consortium said it has been a challenge to secure funding for the effort in part because investment in wheat research is generally lower than for some other major crops despite its importance as a food source.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid